The face of Washington DC is not anyone in the federal government but Adrian Fenty, the 38-year-old mayor.
I am new to the city so I am learning the subtleties of the bifurcated living arrangements of the fabulously wealthy and extremely poor. The residents speak of the hordes across the river in Anacostia. Muggings and breaking and entering cases are frequent even in my neighborhood which is not near a metro stop and is quite affluent. DC still has a reputation from being the homicide capital of the country as well as for Marion Barry’s escapades.
Last week, police found four children dead in a house in the south-east (SE) quad of the city after they came to serve an eviction notice. The mother was in the house and they detained her. It later came out that she had probably killed her children, citing that they were possessed. A statement later said that she didn’t have anyone remove the bodies because she did not trust any of the municipal organizations.
What was astonishing about the city reaction was that Fenty moved quickly to make a statement about it, expressing remorse that the city had failed her. He had city workers fired. An investigation is being done into how many state workers came into contact with the family. Fenty has taken a prominent, proactive role in the case that made national headlines.
It seems like I’m always seeing him. You can see him for what seems like 24 hours a day on the local access channel as he debates policies at city hall or at a local event. It is as though he is always working.
What’s more, he participates in triathlons and just ran a fairly good time in a 10k run over the Christmas break.
When I went to see Barack Obama speak downtown at a venue outside, it was Fenty who joined him on the stage and introduced him to the large crowd. Indeed, Fenty has publically endorsed Obama.
The city is overwhelmingly Democratic, and Fenty according to a poll in the Post is quite popular. And he connects with me on a personal level. He is what I envision a civic leader to be. He is hands-on, visible, and inspires those underneath and around him.
I had the same sense of Harold Ford when I was living in Tennessee and he was running for senator. Ford was also very close to Obama and is a fairly young black politician in the Democratic party. He is the chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council in Tennessee and used to be in the House. He did not win the Senate race.
But I think these guys are the future of the Democratic party on the national level. I don’t know if the fact they are black is coincidental, but they’re all very active, participatory leaders who seem more clinical in their diagnoses of problems and who are challenging the conventional Democratic party view. They are charismatic. They inspire me. They are leaders. Hopefully, they are a sign of good things to come.